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Lakers vs Nuggets: how often has a team progressed from 0-3 in NBA Playoffs?

LeBron James, D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Davis and co. are three down in the Western Conference Finals, so what does history tell us about an epic comeback?

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May 20, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) reacts in the second half against the Denver Nuggets during game three of the Western Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-OnceaUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Los Angeles Lakers have one foot out of the NBA playoffs after losing the first three games of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. Fans of the LA franchise were massively disappointed, some extremely angry -- hello D’Angelo -- following their 119-108 defeat to the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 on their home court at Crypto.com Arena, but as they wake up with a clearer head, hope of an incredible comeback will begin to materialise, at least for the most optimistic.

So, how often has this 0-3 turnaround happened in NBA playoff history. Surely there are some heroic examples we can reflect upon ahead of Game 4 on Monday night. We decided to take a look...

No team has turned around 0-3 in NBA history

That’s right! Sorry to say but this disheartening statistic further dampens the Lakers’ hopes of securing their 18th championship, as no team in NBA history has ever managed to advance to the next round after trailing three without reply in a playoff series.

There have been a total of 149 playoff series with a 3-0 lead and it’s never been done... but could the Lakers, with record-breaking King James, rewrite those statistics? There is certainly some cause for positive thinking given the teams that have come close to doing so, and also the words of the team’s talisman.

Following the game, LeBron James expressed his confidence in the team’s ability to defy the odds and make history. He drew parallels to his remarkable performance in 2016, when he led the Cleveland Cavaliers to overcome a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors in the Finals, clinching the Cavaliers’ first-ever championship.

The main man said that the focus was on Game 4, one game at a time, but that he believed. “My mindset is always locked in as if it was Game 1,” he added.

Game 4 of the series between the Lakers and Nuggets will be on Monday 22 May at the Crypto.com Arena. The tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time and you can follow it live with us on AS USA.

How many have comeback to 3-3?

Although the odds are stacked against them, history shows that three teams have managed to level the series at 3-3 but ultimately lost Game 7. The New York Knicks fell to the Rochester Royals in the 1951 NBA Finals, the Denver Nuggets succumbed to the Utah Jazz in the 1994 Western Conference Finals, and the Portland Trail Blazers were defeated by the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of 2003.

Furthermore, 14 other franchises have won at least two consecutive games following an initial 3-0 deficit before being eliminated. Particularly notable cases include the Lakers’ triumph over the Capitols in the 1949 Finals and Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls securing their fourth championship against the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1996 Finals.

Teams that have come back from 0-3 in other American sports

While the NBA has witnessed no successful comebacks from a 0-3 deficit, other American sports leagues have seen such remarkable turnarounds. In the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs rebounded from a 0-3 deficit to win the Stanley Cup against the Detroit Red Wings in 1942, and the Philadelphia Flyers accomplished a similar feat against the Boston Bruins in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals. The New York Islanders also completed a comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1957 quarterfinals, and the Los Angeles Kings did the same against the San Jose Sharks in the first round of 2014.

In Major League Baseball, the most storied rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox witnessed a remarkable turnaround. In the 2004 ALCS, the Red Sox trailed 0-3 against the Yankees but rallied to win four consecutive games, securing their place in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals and ultimately claiming the Commissioner’s Trophy.

As the Lakers face this daunting challenge, they will draw inspiration from these extraordinary comebacks across different sports. Only time will tell if they can overcome the odds and rewrite the history books once again.